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Over the weekend the women on the World Cup circuit competed in only the third downhill and first Alpine Combined (AC) event of the season in Altenmarkt-Zauchensee, Austria. Because the women’s Val d’Isere downhill and AC events, slated to take place just before Christmas last year, were cancelled due to too much snow, this weekend’s races weighed more heavily on the women eyeing the overall and downhill World Cup titles, as every race cancelled means one less opportunity to bank World Cup points.
While the Altenmarkt downhill event went off without a hitch on Saturday, Sunday’s AC event was rife with dramatic skiing and crashes that resulted in multiple women, including Mikaela Shiffrin, not qualifying for a second run. Here’s a recap of this weekend’s highlights.
Switzerland’s Corinne Suter Wins Women’s Altenmarkt Downhill, Takes World Cup Downhill Lead
Going into Saturday’s race, all eyes were on Mikaela Shiffrin to see if the American would start in the third downhill event of the season. But after skipping the training runs leading up to the race, it became clear that Shiffrin would opt out of Saturday’s downhill in favor of focusing on the next day’s AC event.
With Shiffrin out of the running, the favorites heading into Saturday’s downhill were Austria’s Nicole Schmidhofer, last season’s World Cup downhill champion and winner of the last downhill event in Lake Louise, and leader of this season’s downhills standings Ester Ledecka from the Czech Republic.
But in the end, it was Switzerland’s Corinne Suter who posted the fasted time of the day, claiming her second downhill podium of the season by 0.29 seconds ahead of Italy’s Nicol Delago. Switzerland’s Michelle Gisin rounded out the podium in third, 0.98 seconds behind Suter.
Saturday’s race featured a surprise for American fans, with U.S. downhiller Breezy Johnson making her racing debut this season after being sidelined for a year-and-a-half by back-to-back knee injuries. Johnson staged a successful comeback, finishing 25th to score World Cup points and lead the American women in Saturday’s results. Teammates Alice McKennis and Jaqueline Wiles finished 26th and 27th respectively to also secure World Cup points for their top-30 finishes; fellow American Alice Merryweather finished 45th.
Thanks to Saturday’s win, Suter now leads the downhill standings, with Ledecka sliding down into second and Schmidhofer in third. Despite not racing in Saturday’s downhill, Shiffrin still sits in seventh in the downhill standings, separated from Schmidhofer in third by three Italian women: Sofia Goggia, Francesca Marsaglia, and Delago. McKennis is now ranked 19th in the downhill standings, with Alice Merryweather sitting in 22nd.
See full results here.
Italy’s Federica Brignone Wins Alpine Combined, Shiffrin and 15 Others DNF
Sunday marked the first AC event (a combination of super-G and slalom) of the season after the season-opening event was cancelled in Val d’Isere just before Christmas. The first race of the event—a very technical super-G—proved exceptionally challenging for even the most seasoned World Cup racers.
In a field of 47 starters, 16 racers (34 percent of the field) failed to finish the super-G course. Frontrunners Mikaela Shiffrin, Slovakia’s Petra Vlhova, Slovenia’s Ilka Stuhec, Germany’s Viktoria Rebensburg, and Switzerland’s Michelle Gisin, were among those who did not finish (DNF) the course due to crashing, losing a ski, or missing a turn in the turney course that featured tricky compressions and piles of slough snow right before key gates.
Shiffrin, who crashed near the top of the course after weighting her inside ski too heavily, skied away without injury, describing her crash as “not very exciting.”
“Just before the turn where I leaned inside, there were two turns where there were some small piles of snow,” Shiffrin told U.S. Ski and Snowboard after the super-G. “I went into one turn and I caught my edge a bit, then going into the big turn with the compression, I was just really off-balance and I tried a recovery turn on that one, but I wasn’t over the outside [ski] enough, so I just fell over.”
Italy’s Federica Brignone, who led the AC standings last season and won three of the last five AC events, persevered through the tricky course to win both the super-G and slalom races and finish with the fasted AC time. Switzerland’s Wendy Holdener trailed by just 0.15 seconds to finish second, with Italian Marta Bassino rounding out the podium in third. American Alice Merryweather finished 23rd.
See full results here.
Shiffrin’s DNF in the super-G meant that she did not qualify for the slalom portion of the AC, a rare event for the Slalom Queen. “The slalom looked like it would be really nice to ski, so it’s always a bummer when the day’s cut short like that, but that’s ski racing,” Shiffrin told U.S. Ski and Snowboard.
Despite Sunday’s disappointing result, Shiffrin still leads the overall World Cup standings by 380 points ahead of Brignone, who thanks to Sunday’s AC win overtakes Vlhova for second rank.
From Altenmarkt-Zauchensee, the technical skiers move on to Flachau, Austria on Jan. 14 for the next highly anticipated slalom event of the women’s World Cup circuit, where all eyes will be on fierce slalom rivals, Shiffrin and Vlhova.
Zan Kranjec Wins Adelboden GS, Ligety Finishes Seventh
On the men’s side, Slovenian Zan Kranjec took home gold in Saturday’s giant slalom event in Adelboden, Switzerland, finishing 0.29 seconds head of Croatia’s Filip Zubcic. The two were joined by two other men on the podium after France’s Victor Muffat-Jeandet and Norway’s Henrik Kristoffersen tied for third, 0.64 seconds behind Kranjec’s winning time.
Ted Ligety finished seventh—less than a second out from Kranjec’s time—to post his second top-10 finish of the season and lead the American men in Saturday’s standings. Ryan Cochran-Siegle followed in 18th to add World Cup points to his season’s tally.
In Sunday’s slalom race, Swizterland’s Daniel Yule landed on top of the podium, finishing 0.23 seconds ahead of Kristoffersen and 0.28 seconds ahead of Austria’s Marco Schwarz. American newcomer Luke Winters finished 28th to nab his third top-30 finish of his World Cup debut season.
The men’s World Cup next heads to Wengen, Switzerland on Jan. 17-19 for a mixed weekend of racing that includes AC, downhill, and slalom.